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Testing the Parameters of Music: The Halberstadt Performance of John Cage’s ORGAN2/ASLSP as Experimental System

Author:

Veerle Spronck

About Veerle

Veerle Spronck has obtained a BA in Art History from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and a Research MSc in Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology from Maastricht University. She graduated cum laude on an ethnographic study on the practices and methods of doctoral level artistic researchers in the Netherlands and Belgium. Spronck currently works as researcher at Maastricht University and the Research Centre Arts, Autonomy and the Public Sphere, Hogeschool Zuyd. Furthermore, she is preparing a PhD on musical practices at Maastricht University. 

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Abstract

In Halberstadt, a 639 year performance of John Cage’s ORGAN2/ASLSP (1987) is taking place. With this performance, the initiators aim to investigate the direction ‘as slow as possible’ that John Cage gave for this musical piece in practice. ORGAN2/ASLSP invites people to reconsider what we understand as music: is something still music if the length of the performance extends the length of human lives? The boundaries of performing a musical piece, from the role of the performer to that of the listener and music’s material settings, have to be questioned in order to formulate how slow ‘as slow as possible’ exactly is. In this article, I will examine how in Halberstadt a productive experimental situation has emerged to pose questions about the nature of musical performance. Recently, it has been argued that studies in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) on scientific laboratories may help to develop an understanding of the productivity of experimental arts practices. To research the performance in Halberstadt, I will employ the theoretical vocabulary that historian of science Hans-Jörg Rheinberger developed to understand the experimental systems in which scientific experiments are embedded. According to Rheinberger, experimental systems exist of three elements: epistemic things, technical objects, and researchers. By using these elements as a lens, I will investigate how the Halberstadt performance of ORGAN2/ASLSP functions and how it brings into view questions that help us to reconsider the parameters of music. 

How to Cite: Spronck, V., 2017. Testing the Parameters of Music: The Halberstadt Performance of John Cage’s ORGAN2/ASLSP as Experimental System. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 2(1), pp.37–52. DOI: http://doi.org/10.33391/jgjh.27
Published on 01 Mar 2017.
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